Do I Need A Master’s Degree To Be A Dietitian?
In order to become a Registered Dietitian, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has set forth four criteria: First, you must have completed a bachelor’s degree in a school in the United States that has already been accredited or approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Second, you need to finish a supervised practice program at a community agency, foodservice corporation or healthcare facility. Depending on the program, the supervised practice can be accomplished while you are undertaking undergraduate or graduate studies or after finishing your bachelor’s degree. These internships can last for six months to a year. The third criterion is passing a national exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). To keep your registration, the final requirement is completion of continuing professional education requirements.
When you have already attained the Registered Dietitian designation then you can already practice in the field of dietetics. Do take note, however, that a bachelor’s degree is simply the minimum educational requirement. You can opt to pursue further studies especially if you’re planning to apply for a higher position that would require the specialization that you can only get from a master’s degree. With a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, you can pursue a master’s degree in public health, exercise physiology, psychology and other fields and expand your opportunities for employment. This means that with a master’s degree, you don’t necessarily have to confine yourself to entry-level dietitian jobs.
Thus, while a master’s degree is not necessary to practice as a dietitian, obtaining one will make you more competitive when you start looking for work or when you’re trying to advance in your profession. Having a postgraduate degree under your belt will also make you eligible to get higher pay because of the specialized skills and advanced qualifications you possess as a result of your educational training.
If you also have plans of going into the academe and teaching aspiring dietitians, advanced degrees are going to be the entry-level educational requirement. Some colleges accept those with master’s degrees but universities typically prefer applicants who hold a doctoral degree.
The need for a master’s degree in the areas of nutrition and dietetics may be compelling, however, if you already hold a bachelor’s degree in completely another field and want a career change to become a dietitian. In this case, you will need to get your transcripts evaluated by an ACEND-accredited school. In some cases, you may need to take only a few courses to become eligible for a dietetics degree while in others, you may be able to complete the coursework requirements by enrolling in a master’s degree in dietetics or related field. Each school has different ways of evaluating coursework previously accomplished in another undergraduate degree so it is highly recommended that you take the time to inquire from more than one ACEND-accredited program.